For cooking up better kids' meals--and creative ways to stay in business.
When the country shut down last April, Bean Sprouts, a healthy kids' cafe with 14 locations across the U.S., found itself without any customers, let alone a game plan. The cafés reside in family destinations like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and co-chief executive and co-founder Kelly Parthen wondered how the 14-year-old Orange, California, chain would survive. “Many restaurants added third-party delivery, sold meal kits, and so on,” says Parthen. “We couldn’t do any of those.” What she could do was give Bean Sprouts’ 10-week online cooking class, Imaginibbles, free to host partners who shared it with local schools. And think up ways to bring its signature Imaginibbles menu items, like Spagiggles, to children’s hospitals. With health front and center of everyone’s mind, the pandemic also compelled executives of family destinations to evaluate their food offerings. “Many executives realized [the food] didn’t match their goals of being healthy,” says Parthen. “In the past year, we've signed more contracts for future openings than we ever have.” Bean Sprouts will have 21 locations by the end of this year—a good thing for parents desperate to feed their kids something healthier (and tastier) than cold cuts.--Jill Krasny
For redesigning the diaper-changing experience for the 21st century.
Sometimes the best solutions come from the messiest problems. "My whole world changed when I had my son,” says Adia Gundry. “I just was out and had a dirty diaper experience and thought, ‘Wow, why is it like this?’" Gundry is the CEO of Pluie, a company built around an innovative diaper-changing table for public restrooms that uses a patented UVC light system to sanitize itself. Gundry launched Pluie in 2020 after a successful culinary career that included being a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 13.
The idea for Pluie came after her 10-month-old had a diaper blowout during lunch. The changing table in the women's room was dirty, and there wasn't one in the men's room. "You look around these bathrooms, and what's interesting is that you see hand dryers that are very premium and toilets that flush themselves, indicating people are investing in renovating,” she says. “But then you see the same piece of plastic [changing table] with a ratty strap. I knew I could make something better." In April 2021, Pluie closed a pre-see fundraising round, and there are now 55 changing tables installed across the country.--Teneshia Carr
For connecting constituents with the issues they care about.
In 2012, when Ximena Hartsock co-founded Phone2Action, “digital civic engagement” was a bit of an oxymoron. A lot has changed since then. While civic engagement remains largely a boots-on-the-street affair, the ways citizens have to reach their elected officials have multiplied with the rise of social media. As its name conveys, Phone2Action streamlines the process, with software that allows organizations to connect constituents directly with their elected representatives. It’s been a critical tool in the tumult of the past few years, with the politicization of the pandemic, the social discourse around white supremacy sparked by the spectacle of George Floyd’s death, and the shock of the Capitol riot. “We have had over 100,000 people taking action every day for more than a year,” says Hartsock. “With Covid, we've seen our highest peak of engagement. We became a real strategy that organizations use to make sure lawmakers are not forgetting them.” Phone2Action was acquired by the Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm Frontier Growth in 2020, and Hartsock--now quietly at work on another startup--feels good about where she left things. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done,” she adds. “We gave immediacy to the physical marches and activism in the past year.”--Diana Ransom
For giving her employees a powerful way to give back.
Hani Goldstein loves to give. So much so that she founded a company to do just that. “The whole concept of Snappy is to spread joy and give back,” says Goldstein. Specifically, Snappy is a gifting platform that counts Microsoft, Uber, and Zoom among its more than 1,400 enterprise customers. In 2021, the platform has helped more than one million gift recipients into assorted freebies, from laptop sleeves to air fryers to sleeping bags. But for her own roughly 200 employees, Goldstein decided to take another route: help them do the gifting. In January, Snappy created a $500,000 fund led by employees, and they get to determine whom to help. They’ve donated their time--and the company’s funds--to community hospitals and nurses, an AIDS walk, painting walls in a homeless shelter, math tutoring for underprivileged kids, and other good causes. Goldstein says she thought employees would take pleasure in doing good after such a rough year or so. “I can tell you on a personal note,” she says. “When I’m not feeling good, if I’m able to give back it’s almost like a cure.”--Diana Ransom
For using her products' sales to feed hungry children.
Michelle Buelow is the CEO and founder of Bella Tunno, a boutique teething-toy maker that booked nearly $5 million in revenue last year with clients like Target and Nordstrom. But she’s not really in it for the money. In fact, her real passion is to feed hungry children. Since 2014, Bella Tunno’s buy one, give one model has helped supply at least one free meal to a hungry child with every product sold. That amounts to 6.6 million meals so far; her current goal is 10 million. Food insecurity in children is important to her because it’s a root cause for mental health problems and addiction later in life. Buelow’s brother died from a drug overdose in 2003, and she wants to help other families avoid that fate. “Children born into food insecurity can be linked to adults with addictive behaviors,” she says, adding that one in six children in the U.S. worry about the source of their next meal. The pandemic has only made things worse: 118 million more people were in food-insecure situations in 2020 versus 2019. That, she adds, “just makes us on fire for our mission.”--Diana Ransom